Signs of the Times (4/27/14)

Many Christians Ignorant About Bible

The American Bible Society’s annual “State of the Bible” survey reveals “the people of the book are not people of this book,” said Geof Morin, chief communication officer for the society. People overestimate their knowledge,” Morin said. The ABS survey of 1,012 U.S. adults, conducted by Barna Research, found that 82 percent of U.S. adults consider themselves at least somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible. However, he said, “43 percent can’t even name the first five books of the Bible.” When it came to assessing what the Bible says on several critical social issues, many showed fuzzy knowledge of the attitudes and behaviors addressed in Scripture. There were distinct divides between “practicing Christians” — those who consider their faith important, attend church regularly and believe they are born again — and “notional” Christians who wear the label but disengage from practice. The “notionals” roughly aligned with people who said they had no religious identity on several questions, including what the Bible says about same-sex marriage or the repression of women.

While 91 percent of evangelicals say the Bible discourages “repression of women,” that figure drops to 61 percent for other practicing Christians, such as mainline Protestants. “Notional” Christians — nearly half of all participants in the survey — have a grimmer picture of the Bible’s view on women. Nearly three in 10 (27 percent) say the Bible either encourages repression or is silent on women’s status (28 percent). Among those who claim no religious identity (nones), 46 percent see the Bible advocating repression of women and 22 percent say it’s silent on the matter. Questions about same-sex relationships and about war show similar divisiveness. Strong majorities in every category say the Bible discourages homosexuality. But 24 percent of “notional” Christians, and 33 percent of nones, say the Bible is silent on this topic.

  • Christians cannot depend on others to tell them what’s in the Bible, including pastors and priests. You must read it – all of it – to fully understand Scripture

Most Voters Favor Prayer, Minus Jesus, at Public Meetings

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings. But a new survey finds U.S. voters clearly favor prayer – as long as the public prayer is generic and not specifically Christian. Most registered voters (73 percent) said “prayer at public meetings is fine as long as the public officials are not favoring some beliefs over others.” And 23 percent said “public meetings shouldn’t have any prayers at all because prayers by definition suggest one belief or another.” Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind survey asked about attitudes on high profile cases before the court, including Greece v. Galloway. That case addresses whether elected officials can open public meetings with religiously specific prayers, such as praying in Jesus’ name. A Jew and an atheist brought suit in Greece, N.Y., saying the Christian prayers excluded many citizens and violated the Constitution, which bans government establishment of religion.

  • The end-time anti-Christ spirit and the great ‘falling away’ are rising to unprecedented levels in the run-up to the Great Tribulation.
  • The ‘establishment clause’ was intended by the founding fathers to prevent one Christian denomination to hold sway over another, but the vast majority of them believed America was a Christian nation

Mississippi to Ban Abortions after 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

Mississippi is the most recent state to outlaw abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy reports Charisma News. The new law will go into effect in July. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said, “Today is an important day for protecting the unborn and the health and safety of women in Mississippi,” after signing the bill. Mississippi moved to ban late term pregnancy when research was released claiming that fetuses develop the ability to feel pain at 20 weeks. In the event that a woman’s life was at risk, there is a clause to permit later-pregnancy abortions. The same rule applies if a fetus has “abnormalities so great that life outside the womb is not viable.”

NYT Edits Out Bundy’s Pro-Black, Pro-Mexican Remarks

The controversy over embattled rancher Cliven Bundy’s “racist” remarks has taken a new turn after longer unedited footage emerged showing the Nevada cattle rancher making pro-black and pro-Mexican comments that were excised out of media reports. The full clip illustrates how the original New York Times report edited out statements made by Bundy both before and after his supposedly “racist” remarks, which when taken in their full context actually constitute a pro-minority position. Media Matters also cut out these crucial comments from their YouTube upload of Bundy’s remarks. Go to FreedomOutpost.com for the full remarks.

Florida and Alaska Officially Pass Convention of States Application

Florida and Alaska have both officially passed the Convention of States application to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. The Alaska Senate passed the Convention of States application (HJR 22) on Saturday by a vote of 12-8, and the Florida House passed the Convention of States application (SM 476) yesterday by a voice vote. We’re now two steps closer to calling the first-ever Article V Convention of States (Article V allows us to call a Convention of States to restrict the power, jurisdiction, and reach of the federal government). If you want to stop the out of control federal government, this is the only way. Sign up here and add your name to those who care about freedom. Sign up here!

  • The federal government has been trampling all over states’ rights despite the Constitutional limitation on federal powers. It’s time to reign in the feds.

Georgia’s New ‘Guns Everywhere Bill’

Georgia residents can now legally carry guns in churches, bars, schools, government buildings and parts of airports reports CNN. Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 60, the so-called ‘guns everywhere bill,’ into law on Wednesday, sparking both celebration and criticism. “People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” Deal said. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.” HB 60 was “watered down” from its original form. There is a clause that allows church leaders to ban guns in the church if they choose and only school officials may carry guns in school zones. Concealed carry permits are necessary for Georgia citizens to possess firearms. Citizens must be 21 years of age to obtain a gun license; the exception under HB 60 are soldiers that are at least 18 and have completed basic training.

Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast

President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed regional trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit. In Jerusalem, Israel’s announcement that it was suspending stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians, after a reconciliation between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the militant group Hamas, posed yet another obstacle to restarting a troubled peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry has been greatly invested.

Al-Zawahiri: Followers Should ‘Capture Westerners

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s leader, urged Muslims to capture Westerners as pawns that might be used to free prisoners aligned with his movement in a question-and-answer session with al Qaeda’s media arm, the audio of which was published on the radical Islamist website Hanein.. Asked what he’d tell “Muslims and the mujahedeen” — a term used for some Islamist militants — to do to “fulfill their duty” toward their allies in custody al-Zawahiri said, “I advise them to capture Westerners — and especially the Americans, as much as they can — to exchange them for our captives.”

Furor Erupts over Net Neutrality Rules

A battle has erupted over the Federal Communications Commission chairman’s new proposal for net neutrality rules that would allow content providers to pay for Internet express lanes. In the first formal step toward reinstating net neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler presented a draft of the revised rules to his fellow commissioners Thursday. The rules would prevent Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content. But the proposal allows fast lanes to consumers’ homes, the so-called “last mile,” that content providers such as Netflix can purchase as long as the same opportunities are available to others on “commercially reasonable” terms. The new rules give the FCC the authority to review such arrangements to ensure that they don’t harm consumers and competition. Critics of the new approach immediately asserted that fast lanes are a form of discrimination that could leave small businesses and entrepreneurs at a disadvantage.

Union Leader Lambasts Obama Administration over Keystone Delays

The head of a major labor union is lambasting President Obama over the latest delay on the Keystone XL pipeline, six years after it was initially proposed. Last week, the administration announced it is extending a key review period indefinitely – a move that may push off a determination on the final project until after the midterm elections. Terry O’Sullivan, leader of the Laborers’ International Union which represents a half-million construction workers, claimed the administration’s announcement on Good Friday that it was putting off a decision, possibly until after the midterms, had politics written all over it. O’Sullivan has turned to various media outlets including The Wall Street Journal to voice his frustration with the pace of the Keystone process, and saying the only thing holding Obama back is courage.

  • Obama is rapidly losing the support of the liberal left, up till now his primary foundation of support

Low-Priced Home Sales Down, High-Priced Homes Up

Tuesday’s report on existing home sales last month highlights how tough the market is for buyers of lower-priced homes, especially in parts of the high-priced West. March sales of previously owned homes fell to their slowest annual pace in 20 months, down 0.2% from February to 4.59 million. It was the third straight monthly decline. Sales of homes under $100,000 fell nearly 18% from March 2013 and those in the $100,000-$250,000 range fell about 10%. But sales of homes over $1 million rose almost 8%.The median existing-home price — half were below the median and half above — was $198,500. The West is seeing the sharpest plunges in sales of lower-priced homes and has been for some time. Compared with a year earlier, March sales of under-$100,000 homes fell 45% in the West, 18% in the Midwest, 16% in the South and only 3% in the Northeast.

Economic News

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week, but the rise probably does not suggest a shift in labor market conditions as the underlying trend continued to point to strength. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 329,000 for the week ended April 19, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose only 4,750 to 316,750. That is not too far from pre-recession levels.

In 2012, households still paid the largest single share of health costs, according to federal actuaries. Part was premiums paid through employers and directly to insurers. Part was out-of-pocket expense. The household portion of the health spending pie shrank from 37% in 1987 to 28% in 2012, larger than the federal government’s 26% share or business’s 21%.

  • It will be interesting to see how much of a shift occurs after Obamacare is fully underway. The government portion will see a big increase while the household portion will decline.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades. After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

Middle East

Al Jazeera reported Wednesday that Fatah, the dominant faction in the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, has agreed to form a unity government for the Palestinians in partnership with the Ismalist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. According to the report, the new government is scheduled to be launched within five weeks. Al Jazeera quoted Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as telling a Fatah delegation that “the possibility for further separation between the two movements is no longer possible given the current circumstances.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the news by saying that PA President Mahmoud Abbas “must choose, does he want reconciliation with Hamas, or peace with Israel? Only one is attainable, not both. I hope he chooses peace, until now he has not done so.”

The Israel government decided on Thursday to suspend American-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians because of the reconciliation agreement the Palestinians announced on Wednesday between two rival factions, one of which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The Israelis said no talks would be held at least until the new unity government announced by the Palestinians takes shape, and that it would not it any circumstances negotiate with a government that was backed by Hamas, the militant Islamic faction it considers a terrorist group.

Ukraine

Ukrainian forces killed five militants during operations to take down pro-Russians’ roadblocks in Slavyansk on Thursday, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, in what appeared to be a significant escalation of violence in the country. Meanwhile, a pro-Russian insurgency leader in eastern Ukraine said Saturday that foreign military observers detained as suspected NATO spies could be released in exchange for jailed pro-Russian activists. At the same time, Russia and the West continued their war of words over the handling of the crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if the Kiev government “has started to use the army against the population inside the country” it would “have consequences” between the two governments. NATO and the United States have already voiced unease about an estimated 40,000 Russian troops gathered near the Ukrainian border. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk charged Friday that Moscow “wants to start World War III” by seeking to take over Ukraine militarily and politically.

U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland on Wednesday as part of a wave of U.S. troops heading to shore up America’s Eastern European allies in the face of Russian meddling in Ukraine. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said an initial contingent of about 600 troops will head to four countries across Eastern Europe for military exercises over the next month. The United States and other nations in the Group of Seven say they have agreed to “move swiftly” to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine. The White House says U.S. sanctions could be levied as early as Monday.

Russia

Russia’s central bank on Friday raised its benchmark interest rate half a percentage point to 7.5% to cope with rising inflation in another sign of widening economic fallout from the Ukraine crisis. The move came hours after Standard & Poor’s cut Russia’s credit rating to one notch above junk levels, citing the political tensions over Ukraine. “In our view, the tense geopolitical situation between Russia and Ukraine could see additional significant outflows of both foreign and domestic capital from the Russian economy and hence further undermine already weakening growth prospects,” S&P said.

Iran

Eight months after taking office, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has suffered his first major political defeat, with the public overwhelmingly brushing aside appeals to forgo direct government aid. The 455,000-rial ($14) monthly handout scheme, initiated in December 2010 by Rouhani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is part of broader economic reforms aimed at overhauling the country’s massive subsidy system. The reform — which phases out parts of remaining subsidies on energy, utility bills and basic food costs — is forecast in this year’s budget to save the cash-starved government $18 billion. Encouraged by economists as a way of regulating Iran’s economy, which is stretched thin with debilitating sanctions and mismanagement, the second phase of the plan started Friday with gasoline prices being raised as much as 75 percent. The bid to curb expenditure under the separate handout scheme, however, appears to have failed. The Rouhani administration for weeks ran an aggressive media campaign seeking to persuade the most affluent of Iran’s 77-million population, and some of the middle class, to waive the cash payments… But on Wednesday it was announced that 73 million people — 95 percent — had asked to receive the money, amounting to a near $1-billion monthly bill.

Iraq

Bombers killed at least 31 people and wounded 56 more at a political rally in a stadium in eastern Baghdad on Friday, days ahead of parliamentary elections. The al Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility. Iraq has been beset with political and sectarian violence for months, often pitting Sunnis — a minority in Iraq — against Shiite Muslims, who came to dominate the government after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003. The United Nations said 2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008, with more than 8,800 people killed, most of them civilians.

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan presidential election — the first in 13 years — appears headed for runoff, after full preliminary results released Saturday show former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah receiving the most votes but failing to reach the 50 percent threshold. Abdullah garnered 44.9 percent of the vote, putting him ahead of ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who came in second with 31.5 percent. The preliminary results are to be finalized on May 14 after investigations into fraud complaints, and the runoff should be held within 15 days of the final results.

A Chicago pediatrician who “felt called” to move to Afghanistan to treat children and train physicians was among three Americans killed at a Kabul hospital Thursday by an Afghan guard. The police guard opened fire on the pediatrician and four others with him at the CURE Hospital’s gates, Kabul police said. The police guard shot himself but survived. The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Egypt

An Egyptian military official died Wednesday when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Last week, two Egyptian police officers were injured during an attack near Cairo, when an improvised explosive device detonated at a traffic security checkpoint. Ealier, authorities killed two Muslim Brotherhood members during a gunfight in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo. Police clashed in several cities with protesters supporting former President Mohamed Morsy as unrest continues to plague the nation.

Wildfires

High winds pushed a New Jersey forest fire out of control Thursday, forcing a school to close and 620 homes to evacuate. The fire started just before noon in Beachwood, according to the Asbury Park Press, and then quickly spread into Berkeley Township. Authorities said there were no injuries in the blaze. The fire burned more than half a square mile of land, but was completely contained by late Thursday. Although some homes were damaged, firefighters say none were destroyed.

Weather

California’s epic drought continues to worsen. The Drought Monitor reported Thursday that 100% of the state is officially in drought, with 96% in severe to exceptional drought. The entire southwest is experiencing serious drought conditions, with 84% of Nevada in severe to exceptional drought, 80% of New Mexico and 68% of Arizona in severe to exceptional drought.

It’s hard to image a city of 105,000 running out of water, but that’s the reality in Wichita Falls, Texas. A crippling four-year drought has taken this community to a place they’ve never been before. “It’s been awful here. We’re entering our worst drought on record,” said Russell Schreiber, the city’s public works director, and the force behind one of the most controversial plans in Texas: The use of treated wastewater for public consumption. It’s a bold move — and a tough sell. But many residents don’t like the idea of drinking treated wastewater. Wichita Falls’ new state-of-the-art treatment facility is capable of treating 5 million gallons of water a day, and has the full support of Mayor Glenn Barham. Drought restrictions are also in place, prohibiting all outdoor water usage. City officials will begin issuing fines up to $2,000 for people who turn on the hose, wash their cars or fill their pools.

Even as we push deeper into the heart of spring tornado season, 2014 has so far completely spared Americans the agony and grief of tornado-related deaths. The year’s long early safe streak has put 2014 in rare territory, historically. This year has now gone on longer than any other calendar year in without a tornado fatality since such records began recording in 1950.

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